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Attorneys - Mediators

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Big win for victims of nursing home abuse

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 11:37 PM Comments comments (7993)
Victims of nursing home abuse and neglect have won the right to have their cases heard by a jury. In a landmark change in regulations by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services  nursing homes can no longer require residents to submit claims to private arbitration. 

The change was prompted by high-profile cases in which residents and their families were barred from seeking relief in the courts from horrendous instances of physical abuse. In one of the cases, a 100-year-old nursing home resident was strangled to death by a roommate, and in another, a 94-year-old resident died of a head wound at a Pennsylvania facility. 

The rule will go into effect in November 2016. Unfortunately, it does not apply retroactively to residents who signed admission contracts before that date. 

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When the bank won't honor your power of attorney

Posted on July 2, 2016 at 3:32 PM Comments comments (12219)
Most estate plan packages include a financial power of attorney. This document is intended to make sure that if you become unable to manage your financial affairs, your nominated agent can take over.

But more and more frequently, banks and brokerage firms reject these attorney-drafted powers and insist their own forms be signed.

That's not a problem, unless you've already lost your capacity to sign such a document.

This can create a nightmare for relatives who urgently need to step in for an impaired parent or other family member.

So how can you get around this apparent roadblock?

First, insist on speaking with someone higher up the bank's chain of authority. This often will work.

If it doesn't, enlist the help of an attorney, who may be able to force the bank to accept the existing power of attorney.

It's a good practice to review all of your estate planning documents on a regular basis and make any updates required.

You can also contact the financial institutions you do business with and ask if they require their own power of attorney form. If so, get one and have it signed now.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Posted on June 15, 2016 at 3:41 PM Comments comments (877)
Today, June 15, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. How can you celebrate?

1. Visit with an elderly friend, family member or neighbor. Seniors who are isolated are more likely to be taken advantage of due to confusion, fear, poor health or loneliness. Gain this person's trust through regular contact. Listen closely. If something doesn't sound right, or you see unexplained injuries, take action!

2. Check up on elderly friends and relatives who live in nursing homes or other institutions. Observe how the staff responds to and treats him or her. If possible, look under the blanket for signs of pressure ulcers or bruises. Develop a friendly rapport with staff members; they may reward your relative with extra attention. If you are concerned about treatment of the elder, ask to speak with management personnel.

3. Acquaint the elder with the many kinds of scams targeting the elderly. Reinforce that he or she should never give out financial or personal information to phone callers or strangers who knock on the door. Remind her that before signing up for any home improvement service, she should check credentials and get several references. And offer your help and feedback if she has doubts about any solicitation or contact.

4. Ask how he's doing. Offer a short car trip, a breakfast at his favorite restaurant, or to balance his checkbook. If you see anything unusual in the check register, ask about it. 

A little kindness goes a long way. We will be old ourselves before we know it. Model caring behavior towards our elders to your children. And remember the Golden Rule.

Now go out and celebrate.
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Nursing homes flouting the law, kicking out residents

Posted on May 13, 2016 at 1:17 PM Comments comments (940)
Residential care facilities for the elderly must follow federal law when they decide to evict a resident. A recent article shows that some do not follow the law, and even if the patient successfully appeals a decision to evict, those directives are sometimes ignored.
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Central Coast Elder Justice Summit June 10, 2016

Posted on May 7, 2016 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (1195)
This event should interest anyone involved in elder care and elder protection. Sounds very useful. See you there!

Register here for Elder Justice Summit.
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The grandparent scam

Posted on April 26, 2016 at 11:24 AM Comments comments (2769)
There was a desperate edge to Nancy's voice as her daughter picked up the phone.

"Is Melissa OK?" Nancy asked, not even pausing to say hello.

"Sure, Mom," her daughter replied, "she's at college. Why?"

Moments earlier, Nancy had received a disturbing phone call informing her that her granddaughter was in a distant country and had been arrested. Bail money was urgently needed. The mysterious caller did not identify Melissa by name. But the call struck terror into Nancy's heart. It didn't help that, at 84, Nancy was getting a bit forgetful and confused.

Luckily, Nancy's daughter was able to assure her that Melissa was safe at school. But the call left a lingering taste of panic for Nancy.

Preying on the fears of elderly grandparents in this way is one of the most reprehensible scams we've heard of. If Nancy had wired money to the caller, instead of checking with her daughter, she would be out thousands of dollars. 

How can we keep our seniors safe from predators like this caller?

First, if a parent is becoming confused and forgetful, keep emphasizing the importance of calling a trusted relative in case of a disturbing call giving information about a loved one. 

Second, check in with an aging parent frequently. Daily is best. Panic and confusion could prompt a senior to follow bogus instructions without doing a reality check. 

Read more about other types of phone scams directed at seniors.
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Whiplash? Why you need a lawyer.

Posted on February 21, 2016 at 8:37 PM Comments comments (215593)
If insurance adjusters made reasonable offers to people injured in car accidents, fewer of them might hire lawyers.

This is especially true when someone suffers so-called soft tissue injuries, like neck and back sprain and strain, with its cluster of symptoms like headache, sleeplessness, etc.

It's even more true if the at-fault driver struck your car at low speeds.

Extra points if you didn't go to the doctor for two days or a week, or if the only doctor you've seen is a chiropractor. Even more points if the chiropractor treated you for more than 6 weeks.

Insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers love these types of cases. They argue that being hit at 15 mph is the same as sitting in your living room, watching TV. They tell you that if you were really hurt, you'd have gone to the hospital - the same day. They point point out that no M.D. has ever diagnosed you. They claim the amount of treatment you got is excessive.

The result is almost always an insultingly low offer of settlement - typically $500 to $1,500. They hope you'll buy their dire opinion of your case, take the cash and go away.

Sadly, a lot of injured people do just that. 

Fortunately, over the years, attorneys who represent injured people - plaintiffs' lawyers - have armed ourselves with arguments and information that can fend off the typical defense claims. 

There are no guarantees, of course. But studies show that accident victims who hire a lawyer tend to do considerably better at settlement time. That's because lawyers have heard it all before, and do our best to shut it down.

That's why it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer who does personal injury law, if you're getting the runaround from the other guy's insurance adjuster. Consultations are nearly always at no charge. Get the facts, then decide if you'd be better off letting a lawyer do the heavy lifting for you.
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Consumer's can't win - literally

Posted on December 22, 2015 at 10:53 AM Comments comments (1510)
The deck is increasingly stacked against consumers. A New York Times investigation shows how American corporations have constructed an oppressive scheme designed to deny credit consumers their right to a jury trial. 

Americans by the millions are falling victim to arbitration clauses hidden in the fine print of contracts we all sign every day: credit card agreements, car loan contracts, utility bills. Under these clauses, consumers give up their right to challenge unfair charges in court, or even to defend themselves. Corporations are aided in this scheme by debt collectors who buy the alleged debts, and by the U.S. Supreme Court itself, which opened the door to these hese unfair business practices in a pair of pro-business opinions that bar consumers from banding together to file class-action lawsuits challenging them.

In many cases, the Times found that unlicensed debt collectors were filing lawsuits to enforce old, expired alleged debts, much to the surprise of consumers who either can't recall or deny having incurred the debt. The vast majority of these lawsuits are unopposed because the consumer lacks the financial resources to defend them, or because they were never notified of the suits. 

Often, the first notice to the consumer is when their bank account balance mysteriously dips due to a legal levy by the debt collector. By then, it is either too late to challenge the judgment, or the consumer - facing a hopeless web of legal procedure - simply acquiesces to what seems inevitable.

To find out more, click here.

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Time to plant your drought-resistant shrubs!

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 12:19 AM Comments comments (1726)
Gardeners flock to nurseries in springtime, but fall is the best time to plant. Plants are on sale, but more importantly, planting before the rainy season gives your new shrubby friends lots of rain water to help them develop their root systems and burst into growth come spring.

Here are is a nice collection of handsome specimens for California gardens:

Now, have a cup of tea in front of the fire and dream of abundant foliage and flowers.
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Take No Prisoners

Posted on April 30, 2015 at 2:39 PM Comments comments (2398)
The Santa Clara County Public Guardian's Office (San Jose) is under fire following allegations that the office seized control of elders' assets - including their homes - secretly confined them in nursing homes and refused to let relatives visit them or even know their locations. 

In effect, the elders were kidnapped. The elders were not being physically or financially abused, neglected, or mistreated; in fact, they were exercising their right to live at home under the care of those they love.

Nevertheless, the agency convinced a judge to grant exclusive control over these elders' lives and finances, with minimal to no evidence that they were in danger. Also concerning is a report stating that the Public Guardian can't account for more than $72 million in assets belonging to its elderly wards.

For news reports detailing these allegations, click here.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) recently released a report on the growing problem of nursing homes and assisted living facilities falsely imprisoning elderly residents they deem incapable of making their own decisions. The rationale is that the residents must be kept safe from harm - even though a federal court ruled more than 40 years ago that nursing homes have no special right to keep people locked up against their will.

The report concludes: "All adults have the right not to be locked in long term care facilities. That includes people with disabilities and those with dementia. Only a court of law can deprive an adult of the right to move freely about the world."

The Santa Clara County allegations demonstrate that even those legally empowered to keep an elderly resident confined can abuse that power.

If a loved one is being prevented from leaving a long-term care facility against his or her will, you should consult an elder law attorney to discuss your options. 
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